It’s a wrap: Ads are a sign of the times

Pretty soon the whole city will be wrapped ads.

In his inaugural speech as City Council President early this month, Darrell Clarke promised to look for new sources of revenue and put advertising on public property front and center. Clarke said:

I’m not saying that we should put a billboard on top of Billy Penn’s hat. But if we work together, we can realize revenues to help pay for essential services, while still preserving the character of our public spaces.

Weeks earlier, Clarke introduced a bill in City Council to authorize ads on public property. At the time, the bill was referred to the Committee on Rules, but now that it’s a new year look for this bill to be back before Council sooner than later.

It turns out that SEPTA jumping on the advertising bandwagon too. Starting last month, SEPTA is beginning to wrap more of its buses and trains in ads. SETPA spokeswoman Kristin Geiger told Metro that the revenue would go toward maintenance and repairs.

To be fair, the City and SEPTA are looking for ways raise revenue without jacking up taxes or fares. That places advertising high on the list of possible revenue sources. You can’t blame them for trying to think about new revenue streams as budgets seem to perennially get tighter. But that’s the same logic that brought us casinos. So I’m left wondering how saturated Philly will become with ads?

Just imagine the future, standing in Market East. Today’s bland facades will be tarted up to like Times Square, and as you look west down Market, maybe you’ll see an ad for Dietz and Watson hanging on City Hall, while SEPTA buses chug along hawking Wells Fargo checking accounts and Comcast Triple Plays.

Of course, the ads aren’t permanent fixtures, but it’s hard to cut back on any revenue stream especially in lean times. So will we be able to, as Clarke says, preserve the “character of our public spaces” or will we become ad revenue junkies?

Stay tuned for in-depth coverage of the ad issue and more from PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey later this week.

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